It isn’t Dragon Boat Festival without a couple of rice dumplings at the table.
The relationship between rice dumplings and the festival stems from a myth more than 2000 years ago in ancient China: the story is that a Qu Yuan, celebrated poet, patriot and an imperial adviser threw himself into the river when a rival kingdom occupied his home. The locals then dropped rice balls in the river to stop the fish from eating his corpse when they were unable to locate his body.
Whether this story is true remains debatable, but it remains a fact that this annual affair has been tied to these beautifully wrapped rice packages for as long as anyone can remember. Over the years, restaurants and hotels have made it a point to fashion new flavours and decadent ingredients into the mix, resulting in novel creations even more unique and indulgent than the year before.
If you’re suffering from the paradox of choice with so many rice dumpling variations around, don’t fret. Here’s a neat list of our favourite ones around.
Yi by Jereme Leung
Join the celebrations with the exquisite rice dumplings from Yi by Jereme Leung. This year, the Raffles Hotel Singapore restaurant has introduced a selection of new creations, including the Spiced Pork Belly Glutinous Rice Dumpling and the Kee Chang with Raffles Signature Kaya Jam. The former is crafted with glutinous rice that envelopes around a mix of tender pork belly, Japanese dried scallops and sakura shrimps, while the latter comes with a 200 gram of Raffles Signature Kaya Jam.
Those looking to impress should grab a share of the Traditional Abalone & Jinhua Ham Glutinous Rice Dumpling, a hefty bamboo-leave-wrapped chest generously stuffed with ingredients such as the 12-head abalone, Jinhua ham, Japanese dried scallops, roast duck, pork belly and chestnuts.
The rice dumplings are available for self-collection and delivery from 1 to 14 June 2021.
Jade restaurant’s signature Bak Kut Teh soup dumplings take a spin this Dragon Boat Festival with the Bak Kut Teh Flavour Pork Glutinous Rice Dumpling. Here, delight in a peppery mix of herbs, spices and garlic in this compact tetrahedron, complete with marinated pork belly, salted egg yolk and black mushroom. We were particularly impressed, by the Ginseng Chicken Glutinous Rice Dumpling option on the menu this year. The traditional Korean dish usually comes with stuffed glutinous rice, so this rice dumpling tastes particularly familiar. Jade’s version comes packed with ginseng, marinated chicken thigh, Chinese ham, black mushroom, salted egg yolk.
Other interesting flavours to take note of? The organic millet five-grain Omnimeat glutinous rice dumpling, a vegetarian option that’s sure to impress.
Delivery and self-pickup is available.
Wan Hao Chinese Restaurant
Indulge in the festivities with the hearty rice dumplings from Wan Hao Chinese Restaurant. The traditional Chinese restaurant, located at Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, debuts its hearty 5-Head Australian Abalone with Iberico & Parma Ham Rice Dumpling as its headline act this year, against the backdrop of other intriguing flavours such as the Sichuan Pepper Chicken with Lotus Root, Fungus, Peanuts & Mushrooms Rice Dumpling. We were pleasantly surprised by the Honey Red Dates with Salted Green Beans, Red Beans & Melon Candy Rice Dumpling, an Eight Treasures Glutinous Rice Pudding-inspired, vegetarian rice dumpling that made for a perfect after-lunch dessert with some tea.
Resorts World Sentosa
Resorts World Sentosa has an incredible box up its sleeve this year, complete with an assortment of eight rice dumplings specially handcrafted by eight expert chefs from across Resorts World Sentosa including Feng Shui Inn, Osia Steak and Seafood Grill, and Syun. Apart from more traditional selections such as the Eternal Amber Dumpling with a beautiful melt-in-the-mouth five-spice pork belly, we were enamoured by some novel creations like the Siamese Jade Dumpling, a delightful blend of fresh coconut milk, palm sugar, lotus seed and a creamy taro filling.
Trying to be a little healthier? The Bouquet of Rubies Dumpling might be your favourite. It features a union of organic red rice, barley, prickly water lily and mung beans, and sprinkled with ingredients like premium dried longan, kumquat, gula melaka before being wrapped in bamboo leaves and slow-braised in a floral tea and pure longan honey for an aromatic treat like no other.
This luxurious box is available for orders from now to 16 June 2021.
Man Fu Yuan
It’s all about flavour over at Man Fu Yuan. The award-winning restaurant from Intercontinental Singapore is celebrating the festivities with seven varieties of handcrafted rice dumplings this year, each crafted to create a nostalgic experience for the diner. The Smoked Duroc Pork Char Siew Dumpling with Black Gold Garlic, for instance, is made with the restaurant’s Signature Duroc Pork Char Siew and loaded with antioxidants from the black gold garlic. Those who’ve enjoyed Man Fu Yuan’s dumplings in the past can look forward to its signature X.O. Sauce Nyonya Rice Dumpling once again, stuffed with minced pork marinated in X.O. chilli sauce and sweetened with strips of winter melon and dried shrimp.
Shang Palace is debuting Shangri-La’s first-ever Applewood-smoked Rice Dumpling, set to be the next icon of luxury during this festive season. Here, you’ll find more than 10 indulgent ingredients such as four-head abalone, foie gras, dried scallop, dried matsutake mushrooms and more in the 750-gram rice dumpling, accompanied by a spice-packed, numbing Sichuan Chilli Sauce that elevates the dish to a whole new level.
If you’re looking for a gift for your loved ones, the Heritage of Asia Rice Dumpling Gift Set is the perfect option. The limited-edition six-piece set comes in an elegant hexagonal box, with impressive flavours such as the Fujian-style Rice Dumpling with Abalone, Roasted Pork, Sea Cucumber, Dried Shrimp and the Foie Gras, Parma Ham and Roasted Chicken Rice Dumpling with X.O. Sauce.
Mention Gim Tim and you’ll find a slew of regulars of the heritage Hokkien and Cantonese restaurant lining up to let you know how much they love dining here. If you’re looking for some traditional rice dumplings, the Gim Tim Traditional Conpoy Rice Dumpling is an excellent option: the savoury treat is filled with Conpoy, Salted Egg, Dried Oyster, Chestnut, Dried Shrimps, Mushroom and Pork for the ultimate taste of nostalgia.
Joo Chiat Kim Choo
Joo Chiat Kim Choo, not to be confused with the other heritage brand, Kim Choo Kueh Chang, is serving up bundles of rice dumplings this year for easy gifting. We prefer Nonya rice dumplings, studded with delicious, sweet winter melon and meat, so it’s no surprise we recommend ordering the Nonya Rice Dumpling Bundle here. You could get 10 Nonya rice dumplings like us, but those who like a bit of variety should definitely opt for the half-and-half option.
Joo Chiat Kim Choo rice dumplings are delivered fresh daily in a gift box, and are made ready to eat on the day of delivery.
(Main and featured image: Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel)
This story first appeared in Lifestyle Asia Singapore.